Chiaroscuro “is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition. It is also a technical term used by artists and art historians for the use of contrasts of light to achieve a sense of volume in modelling three-dimensional objects and figures.” – Wikipedia
I thought I’d begin this post with a quote from Wikipedia. My recent Tweedle paintings have taken a darker turn, and I thought I might elaborate on them today. A few years ago I came up with the Tweedles without really knowing what to do with them. They were a creation without a purpose. I have given them rules, emotions, a mind, a soul… each of them even has its own backstory, and the story of Tweedles as a species (which I am still writing. Maybe I should try making a graphic novel rather than writing a book…) exists entirely in my head at the moment, awaiting it’s manifestation onto canvas, text, video and music. But even so, I still had no idea where I was going with my Tweedles… They were my creations, but they had no purpose. No reason to exist in my artwork. And then I realised that they were my creations. They were what humans are to a god. They were artificial life of a sort, and I began to explore that.
In my fictional world, Tweedles are created with artifical brains, mixing organic matter with analog and digital technology in nano scale. Because of the way they are made, they think, but differently to us. They feel, but do not understand how to express their emotions (especially with a stitched on mouth that holds their head cloth in place). They can sense the world around them, but cannot truly touch it. Tweedles don’t instinctively have free-will, and need to learn how to be free. Their existence is a confusing one once they can actually develop enough to stop and think about it. Their creators are not omnipresent. They are not omnibenevolent. They create Tweedles for reasons more linked to power and greed, and they create the Tweedles for reasons that are not entirely good but in fact selfish in some ways. Tweedles are made to be servants and slaves. The eventual development of true emotion and free will is just a side-effect of their construction.
I thought about how that would relate to what it’s like to be human. To live and die without knowing why. What your purpose is, if you have one. A lot of people live lives dedicated to a god or supreme being, but without ever questioning whether their creator is really omnibenevolent at all. The amount of suffering in this world seems unjust. Perhaps there is an evil, possibly sadistic being that enjoys messing around with humanity for entertainment? I was thinking about these deep philosophical and theological concepts and questions, and then suddenly the Tweedles had purpose after all. They were a vehicle for this philosophical exploration into life, death, morality, the creators and the created… through painting my recent Tweedle pictures, I am confronting some of my strongest fears in regards my spirituality, humanity and existence. I wouldn’t really call myself a spiritual person, but if there is a god, how do I know they are good? If he told me that he was, could I really trust them? And in regards free will, I assume that it exists because I think I can make decisions. But do I really have free will? When we look closely, living cells are made up of lots of dead matter and elements that are having a chemical reaction with each other to make the next part have a reaction and so on. Theoretically our entire bodies are a prolonged chemical reaction, so does that mean that we are even alive, or is humanity (and by extension all life) a strange and complicated quirk of chemistry that never was ‘alive’ in the way we believe we are?
Tweedles are made up of a few bio-engineered and grown brain cells linked into mechanisms and machines which allow them to move their bodies, repair it, respond to stimuli and even potentially build more Tweedles… but by our current definitions of life they are not alive because they are not composed entirely of cells. Are they alive or not?
Is this Tweedle really dead or can it be repaired and brought back? Was it ever actually alive, and were we as humans ever truly alive?
By using heavy, dark backgrounds in the paintings (a greenish-black colour) I could help express the gravity of these questions and the weight the answers would have on us if we ever knew them. I wanted to highlight the Tweedles in bright colour to emphasize that they are surrounded by darkness. The specific Tweedle that is the subject through my recent series of paintings walks its entire life treading through the unknown. And then, without realizing how or why, it dies.
No-one will ever truly know exactly what when on in our mind; we can only guess. Sometimes you may meet someone so like minded that you think you know what they’re thinking, and they can seem to read your mind, but in the end we can only hazard estimates and guesses as to the thoughts of other human beings. Eventually all our thoughts, our personalities, our very selves will disappear, as they are only made up of memories, and will eventually fade into darkness…
…and whether there is a light after that darkness will forever be completely unknown to us until we actually experience it.
“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone.” – Orson Welles
Once again, I apologize for the randomness of when I post my blog posts. Schedules just aren’t my forte at the moment.
Anyhow, my grandparents, aunt and cousin came all the way from England to stay round for a week. We’ve all been busy with day trips and family games, but the week has finished and now they’re returning home.
The short holiday was an early celebration of my granddad’s 70th birthday (which is actually on the 18th of August). I decided to paint a picture of the driveway to my house as a gift to him:
In my younger years I lived with my grandparents and my granddad would let me make clay sculptures using his potter’s wheel, and I would learn a lot by watching him paint and draw. To this day, he still draws and paints, and has even had his works in exhibitions. He has always liked art and I think that he was one of my biggest influences on my artwork.
Wonderland is a dangerous and mysterious place, but it’s dark, criminal underworld is even more so. Here’s a drawing of one of the many underground workshops where the Tweedles are created by hand:
Originally built for sabotage, each Tweedle has one working hand, and one blade-hand for cutting wires and breaking mechanisms. Each Tweedle is unique, with a different face, body and blade-hand. The working hand is virtually the same for all Tweedles, however, to operate the infamous mechanical Tweedledee and Tweedledum soldiers (which will be revealed in a later post…).
The scientist in the picture has genetically grafted arms onto himself to aid him in his work. A spare arm in a tube can be seen next to his desk. Each scientist and inventor assigned to making Tweedles has a different approach to his or her Tweedles, leading to subtle differences in their Tweedles’ appearance, size and personalities.
If YOU were one of the inventors making a Tweedle,
what characteristics would you give it?
As you may (or may not) be aware, I’ve spend a week in England recently. A few days after I returned I felt ill, but now I feel well enough to type on my blog. Anyhow, as I was on holiday, I was allowed to use my parent’s camera (which was much better than my tiny camera with it’s blurry photos and short battery life). Armed with such a camera, I took the opportunity to take some photographs of the places I’ve been.
This is an art blog, so you’re probably wondering what relevance my holiday pictures have…
Well, when I was in England, I visited Crosby Beach, which happens to be the location of Antony Gormley’s artwork “Another Place”.
Cast iron figures stand on the beach, looking out to sea. They are distributed across 2 miles of Crosby beach, being both hidden and revealed by the tides, depending on the time. The statues are iron copies of Antony Gormley’s own body.
Also, I dared to go on the Big One, which is a roller-coaster at Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach. When it was first built, it was the tallest and steepest roller coaster in the world. I hope this photo gives you an idea on just how high it is:
To summarize the rest of my holiday; I said hello to the indigenous wildlife, slept in a caravan at a holiday resort, gambled half my loose change in their arcade centre (and lost!) and I bought a top hat. Here’s some pictures I took of the local wildlife:
As the exams are now over and I have finished school, I am more free to do what I like. However, because I’ll be on holidays in the next week or two I will be unable to blog for a while. I was going to post another drawing, but since I’m going to be gone for a while more, I may as well make this post useful. So, without any further delay, I will share with you some of my hints on how to construct characters, creatures and other people in your artwork:
1. When creating a character in a picture, always start with pencil when draw them. As you develop them you can add or erase anything you want to until they look right. A lot of my drawings are completely pencil-drawn. By allowing yourself to make mistakes and changing or accepting them, you will be able to create interesting characters for your pictures.
2. Don’t plan your characters initially – Sometimes I draw some rough lines for human figures to get the proportions right, but usually I just draw. Start drawing either the head or torso and expand your character from there. After a few minutes, the character will start to emerge.
3. Once you’ve drawn the basic character, give them personality. Whether they’re shy, evil, mad, or confident, observers of your artwork won’t know that you’re character possesses any of these without some sort of visual evidence. My mischievous Tweedle character wouldn’t look so mischievous without the smile stitched onto his face.
4. Now that you’ve sculpted your character this far, you need to think about their background. How did they get to be the character they are? Where do they come from? For example, the Tweedle on your right was built by some sort of mad scientist for an unknown purpose. Simply knowing your character’s history will help you to really understand how to draw them.
5. Finally, attention to detail can really bring out your characters. While not entirely necessary, even the small pocket watch chain on the hatter or the teabag hanging off his arm, for example, can improve the overall look of the character.
These tips are simply based on the way I create my own characters in my pictures and drawings. They might work for you, they might not, but I hope they are useful to you in one way or another.
I’ve been experimenting a lot with my Tweedle characters recently (based loosely upon Tweedledee and Tweedledum from Alice in Wonderland). I recently gave a leaving present to my school principal (who has helped me a lot throughout my time in secondary school) which consisted of the school logo being built by Tweedles. Although it came up a bit dark on the scanner, the original was drawn on the back of watercolour paper, mounted and put into a frame:
I hope this post provides good advice for both budding artists and people in general, and hope you’ve enjoyed this short insight into how I create the beings that populate my artwork.
My Leaving Cert. exams have just begun, which means that I won’t be able to post much until the 18th of June. I’ll try to post during the weekends, but I really must focus on my studies. Although study helps me prepare for my exams, it destroys the amount of time I have to spend on artwork.
Anyway, I must make this post short, so my readers I leave you with this picture to dwell upon for now:
When watching the Tim Burton movie adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, I found it strange how the Dodo character only appeared one or twice and then, without explanation, was never seen again. My drawing below is just my interpretation of what could have happened. It may also shed light on how the Dodo became extinct…
In the picture, the Queen of Hearts is giving her trademark execution order to the Dodo. The Ace of Hearts serves as the Queen’s bodyguard; his uniform inspired by playing cards. I drew the executioner as some sort of steampunk cyborg. I started off drawing him normally and I have no idea how he ended up that way, it just felt right.
Some of the castle buildings seen in my last drawing can be seen in the background through the windows.
I hope you enjoy the drawing and thank for reading!
I’ve often wondered about my future as an artist, enjoying the thought that my name would be famous… The problem is that it’s already famous. There is an amazing artist named Daniel Smith who specializes in wildlife photo-realism and also an art supply company by the same name as me. It seems that my given name is already taken. When I’m a bit older and I’ve set myself up professionally, I will have to market my name as a brand, but I could end up causing a whole series of problems from copyright infringement to being plain confusing by utilizing ‘Daniel Smith’ as my professional name.
There are quite a few artists who have pseudonyms, most of which are street artists like Banksy, Invader or King Robbo, who use their names to protect their real identities. Anonymity is essential for such artists as their means of creating their works are in the grey areas of the law and are quite often illegal.
I’m not afraid for people to know my name nor do I have any reason to hide my true name, but I will need a different name to work by if I am to make it in the art world without confusing fans of my work.
I know that actors and musicians have stage names, and they are definitely artists, but when it comes to the visual arts there aren’t that many artists with stage names. Maybe there is a reason why visual artists seldom adopt alter egos; maybe taking on a new name would be the best decision I ever made; who knows?
If I do take up a stage name, I would have to choose something cool, catchy, short and easy to remember. If people don’t like saying the name or can’t pronounce or spell it, how can I expect them to want to tell other people about the artist?
I wonder how much of an impact a name can have on someone…
Lets say that I did take up another name, how would that affect my life? Would I still be the same person or would my personality subtly differ when I’m being my professional self and when I’m being me… the real me?
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” ― Oscar Wilde
At the moment I have no idea what I would call myself. It would have to be a name that isn’t already owned by another person or company. I like the thought of having a mononym – a single word name, but as I’ve just said, I’m currently undecided.
I wonder what your opinions are on this matter? Should I adopt a new name? What sort of name would even suit a visual artist? Is it too much of a risk to go out into the art world with a completely crazy name, or is it worth the risk?
I apologize for the recent lack of posts – over the last few weeks I’ve just had my Leaving Cert. art exams. I would post photos of my work from the exams, but since the exam is done anonymously, the examiners might think that I copied my ideas from my own site, not knowing that I’m the same person. Therefore, I can’t put any of my examination work here until I get the works back from the examiners, which could be anywhere between 3 to 6 months, maybe longer.
Because of these recent exams I don’t have much to post, except for a drawing I’ve been working on in between study and school:
My drawing was based on and inspired by Alice in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll. Parts of my sketch were also inspired by the steampunk aesthetic, albeit very loosely.
Since I was young, I’ve been drawn to the mad, mad world of Carroll’s Wonderland. I like the way that it questions why we do the things we do, or say the things the way we say them. It is fairly thought provoking for a classic children’s book and it even seems to be as popular now as it was in 1865. It allows us as readers to get in touch with our crazier sides and ignite the imagination. It is simply brilliant.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”
I’ve always been particularly interested in the Mad Hatter as a character. With film and television adaptations building upon his character, he is even more interesting as he has been developed into a 3 dimensional character rather than just a 2D character. In my opinion, Tim Burton’s film seems to delve the deepest into his personality and background.
There seem to be a few similarities between the Hatter’s personality and my own. I can be very random at times, sometimes talk to myself, sometimes experience emotions stronger than other people can (or at least I think I do, I’m not 100% sure), be fairly impulsive and I am a heavy drinker of tea. Some days I feel more like a fictional character myself than an actual person. I guess some of my personality traits are down to my Asperger’s Syndrome, but I’m not sure what’s me and what’s the condition, or if it even matters.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy my drawing and thank you for reading!
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a painting I created for a local exhibition. Here are a few photos from that exhibition, which was held during most of April at the Carnegie Arts Centre.
Apart from my Ancient Squid lino print in the top left corner (of the top left photo), I also entered these paintings into the exhibition.
The picture on the left is my Venturing the Skies painting, and the one on the right is a sunset painting that I painted based on some of my previous bookmarks:
I hope the picture quality is good enough and that you enjoy the photos. If you want a closer look, please click on the images above, and as always, thanks for reading!
I’ve enjoyed working with spray paints recently, enjoying the interesting effects they can create, and the speed which paintings can be created using them. I have used them in my previous works to create fog and smoke effects. For my most current paintings, however, I have revisited one of my earliest ideas and expanded on it:
(Click to enlarge the above images)
I found the old skull stencil I made almost a year ago. I created a scaled-down version of it for my mini canvases so that I could experiment with my the image, along with the black and white spray paints I have at the moment. I used my new stencil on various different forms of paper as well as canvas, and above are what I feel to be my best of the experimental paintings.
By flipping the stencil over and using different spray paints, some interesting images could be formed; my favourite example of this technique would be the skull on the very left, due to it’s 3D effect which makes it stand out, almost to the point that you could reach out and grab it. With the same technique, a fairly Terminator-esque skull was formed (which can be seen on the right).
Although I had forgotten about my original skull design, upon rediscovering it I was immediately drawn to it. I think that it’s a very powerful image because of the contrast between the white and black, and because of the association we have with skulls and our mortality.
The eerie stare of the skull seems to follow you around the room. Although this wasn’t intentional, I liked how it reminded me that death feels inescapable, yet as humans we try to prolong our existences with medicine and diet, with some of us even seeking the seemingly impossible – immortality.
As an artist, I may be able to achieve immortality through my works and be remembered long after I’m deceased (or at least I hope so!) but realistically prefer the idea of biological immortality, where I can physically live on. At the moment this is impossible, but in the future it may slowly change into the improbable, then the probable, and finally the possible.
Thinking more about it, I wonder if immortality would be as good as it seems. At first it would be fairly amazing. As I’ve gotten older it seems that time has sped up, and as I continue to get older, the years will continue to fly past at an exponential rate. Perhaps centuries will eventually feel like seconds as I progress through an evolving world in a slow, dream-like state. Also, old age is often accompanied with arthritis and memory loss, so spending eternity with increasing joint pains with no memory of who I am or was or where I came from certainly doesn’t sound good at all.
I didn’t know that I would end up writing more of a philosophical post about life and death, but then again, that’s what art is supposed to do – to allow you to admire, experience or think about things in our world. Curious to know what you readers think, I guess I’ll leave you with this question:
Would you want to be immortal?